SUMMARY: Arlene Thompson, age 17, died in Long Beach, NY on December 9, 1957 after an abortion attributed to lay abortionist Julie Villano.
Arlene Thompson, age 17, was attending night courses while working as a bank clerk. She closed out her bank account, withdrawing the entire $200 balance, telling co-workers that she was going to use the money to purchase Christmas gifts.
Arlene left her Long Island home on December 9, 1957, telling her mother that she was planning to attend the office Christmas party then spend the night with a friend. Instead, accompanied by her married boyfriend, Aram Havnanian, age 22, and a go-between, 38-year-old Brooklyn car salesman Joseph Torre, she went to a hotel room in Long Beach, New York.
Hawnanlan and Torre went to an ice cream shop while 37-year-old Julie Villano of Brooklyn, who worked as a hat-check girl, perpetrated an abortion on Arlene. The abortion was botched, and Arlene evidently bled to death, though Dr. Lesle Lukash, who performed the autopsy, said he could not rule out Arlene’s epilepsy as a contributing factor.
Hovnanian put Arlene’s body in the trunk of his car and kept it there for 24 hours, driving back and forth to his job as a gas station attendant. Then he buried Arlene’s body in an 8-foot-deep grave in a rubbish-littered field near the Jamaica race track.
Arlene’s divorced mother, Sally Thompson, reported her daughter missing. Police arrested Hovnanian on a charge of violating his parole after being released from Sing Sing, where he had been serving time for assault and robbery. On December 18, Hovnanian led police to Arlenes grave. Police had to remove nearly half a ton of rubble and dirt to retrieve the body.
Hovnanian implicated Villano and Torre. Hownanian told police that he’d thought that Villano was a practical nurse. All three parties were charged with first-degree manslaughter. They were all tried together.
Hovnanian was found guilty of first degree manslaughter on August 14, 1958 and was sentenced to 10 to 20 years. Torre and Villano were found guilty of abortion.
During the trial, evidence established that Hovnanian had conspired with Torre to have Villano perpetrate the abortion by using a syringe to inject a soap solution into Arlene’s uterus. The final medical testimony was that it was an air embolism, rather than hemorrhage, that had caused Arlene’s death.
Hovnanian appealed his conviction, arguing that the three verdicts taken together made no sense. The appeals court held that just because a jury might have erred regarding the other two defendants, that did not mean that Hovnanian wasn’t guilty of manslaughter.
Sally Thompson was left particularly bereft after Arlene’s death since her only other child, a son, had died several years earlier.
- “Held In Death Of Young Girl,” Hazleton (PA) Plain Speaker, Dec. 19, 1957
- “Find Girl’s Body Buried In Suburban Rubbish Pile,” Indianapolis Star, Dec. 19, 1957
- “Married Man Buries Girl Friend,” Tuscon Daily Citizen, Dec. 19, 1957
- “Married Man Admits Burying Girl After Abortion Death,” Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner, Dec. 19, 1957
- “Hatcheck Girl, 37, Arrested In Teenager’s Abortion Death,” Bridgeport (CT) Telegram, Dec. 20, 1957
- People v. Hovnanian, ruling decided 21 May, 1962